In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine what happens when corporations try to be too clever with their marketing—and get busted big time. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
Sony PlayStation’s Fake Fan Site (and its bad spin)
Back in 2006, a guy who went only by the name of “Charlie” created a fan site dedicated to Sony PlayStation Portable called “All I Want For X-Mas Is A PSP.” Seems that ol’ Charlie was trying to help his bro, Jeremy, get a PSP for Christmas—he (and his rapping bud “Cousin Pete”) even created a video for poor J.
Awwwww, sweet. But, gamers being gamers, some got suspicious of Charlie and went on a fetch quest. Within hours they discovered that “Charlie’s” domain was registered to a branding agency called Zipatoni and that the whole thing was fake, fake, fake. Not cool, bro!
Trust was destroyed and the insulted gamers went ballistic. Visitors to the blog let Sony have it in the comments section, calling them out for trying to game the gamers and (worst of all) saying the Sony’s marketing ploy was “lame.” Burn, bro. Lame is the one thing you don’t want to be called when you are talking to your target audience. Top gaming site Penny Arcade had this to say: “Unwilling to let an increasingly savvy portfolio of titles speak to gamers directly, they chose instead to bring aboard guerilla marketing gurus Zipatoni and do irreparable damage to their brand.”
But Sony—I mean, “Charlie”—valiantly pushed back. In pseudo hip-hop speak he (more than once) wrote: “Yo where all u hatas com from… juz cuz you aint feelin the flow of PSP dun mean its sum mad faek website or summ… you all be trippin.” And then “Cousin Pete” added: “Are site was registered through an external provider. We don’t work for sony.”
The denials incensed the gamers even more and it started a feeding frenzy. Over at the popular somethingawful.com message boards, one commenter wrote: “Makes you wonder why they (Sony) can’t cough up the $8 to do private registration, to keep people from easily seeing that their ‘blogs’ are owned by promotional companies.”
Double burn, bro.
It wasn’t long before Sony threw in the towel and offered an “Oops, my bad.” But they failed at even that, issuing an apology for being too clever! “Busted. Nailed. Snagged,” their statement read. “As many of you have figured out (maybe our speech was a little too funky fresh???), Peter isn’t a real hip-hop maven and this site was actually developed by Sony. Guess we were trying to be just a little too clever. From this point forward, we will just stick to making cool products, and use this site to give you nothing but the facts on the PSP. Sony Computer Entertainment America.”
Yeah, that was the problem, being too funky fresh… And this wasn’t the first time Sony tried to “get down with the peeps” and then make a major fail in the attempt. Back in December of 2005, they ran a pseudo graffiti campaign. It didn’t work out then either. Neighborhoods called it vandalism and graffiti artists cried foul and then defaced the ads. Sony apologized.
As savvy marketeers know, good advertising doesn’t have to rely on tricking people, and then lying to cover your tracks. Consumers are smarter and more wary than many think, which is why when alternative marketing is used it has to be real because everything comes under scrutiny these days. Involving consumers in the brand story is the best way to motivate them because, while they might forgive once for faking them out, if you keep trying to fool them they’ll be tuning you out. Or, as “Charlie” might put it: “Yo, you korprate boyz is fony tymez 4. you all be hypin. We done. Peace OUT! Da Consuma.”
Word to your mother, dawg.